His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ – Luke 19:22-23
Jesus taught the people in a parable while dining at the house of Zacchaeus. He told the story of an investor who gave varying amounts of money to his staff to invest while he was on travel. When the investor returned, he called in each staff member to account for what they had been given. One reported doubling his ventures as did another. A third agent, however, reported that he’d stashed the money because he was afraid that if he’d lost the money, the boss would be harsh on him. The investor, according to this third agent, was a harsh man and collected dividends from he hadn’t invested normally. The boss then had the man fired.
We have to look at this passage in light of a differing version from one of the other apostles. Matthew reported that Jesus said in the parable, Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 25:30) There are a few things to consider here first. 1.) The three men were servants of the investor (representing God), so these men has to be children of God. 2.) The agent who didn’t produce any dividend was considered useless, lazy, and wicked. 3.) The useless servant was thrown into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (he was thrown into hell).
Now we have to look at this passage in light of the false doctrine of once saved, always saved. In John 15, Jesus went to great lengths to explain to the apostles that he is the vine while we are the branches. He goes on to say that we can do nothing without the vine, as far as producing a return on his investment (ROI). Further into his speech, Jesus says that those branches of his that produce are pruned in order to produce a greater harvest (ROI), but those that don’t produce fruit (ROI) are cut off, allowed to wither, bundled, and burned in the fire.
Let’s compare a few things from these accounts. 1.) The servants and the branches are children of God, not sinners. 2.) The wicked servant who didn’t invest the master’s money and the branches that produced no fruit are useless to God. 3.) The wicked servant and the fruitless branches are thrown into hell, where the fire never quenches and there is great darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. NOTE: Hell is the only place in Scripture described as having weeping and gnashing of teeth. Thus, we can say with certainty that once saved DOES NOT equate with ALWAYS saved!
We each have a role to fulfill in the body of Christ/the kingdom of heaven. Let’s be clear! Not everyone is called to be of the ecclesiastical gift to the church (Eph. 4:11): apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. However, we all have a role for Paul said that one part of the body can’t say to another that it’s not needed. The glorious parts (like the eyes) have as much need for the less glorious (digestive tract) and vice versa. The body must function as one unit regardless of one’s individual role or function. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. We can then understand and see why Jesus made it clear that if you don’t produce a full yield like two of three did, then at least bank the money to produce interest, however slight or small the interest rate. At least you’ll be producing something.
Paul teaches us that our works (fruit and investments if you will) will then be tried by fire before the Messiah in heaven. Those works that are sustained like precious metals will endure and produce a reward. Those that are burned up like plant materials will be lost but still allow the child of God to be saved as though having passed through the fire. This is NOT, I repeat, NOT salvation by works! Both of these groups produced something. Those who don’t produce, regardless of the size of the yield,
will be lost! If you doubt Jesus, let’s read his words!
I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. (John 15:1-8)
Five times in this one passage Jesus says to remain in him! Yes, he said he would never leave us and nothing could separate us from him, except ourselves! Nowhere in Scripture does it say that we cannot leave the Father! Jesus said elsewhere that in the end many would be offended, turn on each other, grow cold in their love for him, and leave the faith. Paul and Pete confirmed this in their letters. Jesus said numerous times that the person who endures to the end would be saved. Have you ever wondered why? So, do your part and fulfill your role. Remember the words of James, Jesus’ brother and apostle, that faith without works is dead! What is the point of having faith if there is never anything showing the truth of that faith? We are saved by grace through faith, but grace is Jesus’ power to enable us to fulfill the work he’s given to every believer. To the ecclesiastical that’s going into the world to make disciples and baptizing them and teaching them all Jesus taught. To the non-clergy that’s being a loving neighbor, co-worker, or giver to the kingdom. Do something! Just don’t do nothing!
Father, thank you for this extremely difficult passage today. You remind me of the mission that you’ve set before me. We each have a part in your kingdom to fulfill while alive here on this earth. Some are called to be clergy and go while others are called to give of time, treasure, and talents locally. I know the path you’ve set before me, and with your grace I’ll traverse that path, run the race, and complete the course. There have been dry seasons in my life where nothing has been produced because of rebellion and my choosing, but you’ve allowed the land of my heart to lie fallow and be prepared to produced a bumper crop. I want the ROI you receive out of me to be enormous for your glory!!!! May your will be done, not mine. In Jesus’ name, Amen.